Donor retention continues to be a problem for nonprofit organizations. Many organizations spend a lot of time and energy on acquiring donors, concentrating more on volume, and don’t seem to be concerned that they’re churning through different donors year after year.
Acquiring new donors is more expensive than keeping the ones you already have, so it’s important for you to keep track of your retention rate.
There are many reasons donors don’t give again. Some you can’t control, but many you can. Maybe you’re losing donors because you’re either not communicating enough or communicating poorly. Fortunately, this is something you can fix, but you need to give it your full attention.
Pay attention to your donor relationships
One of the most important components of fundraising is building relationships with your donors.
Donor relations should be easier than raising money, and it can be fun, too. Make it a priority, as well as something you do throughout the year.
Follow the ask, thank, report formula and give more attention to thanking and reporting. Donors are not ATM’s. They were drawn to your organization because they felt a connection to your work. They want to feel appreciated and hear how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.
If you don’t pay attention to building relationships, your donors are less likely to give again.
Pay attention to your first-time donors
The retention rate for first-time donors is around 20%. Obviously, we can do better.
If you can get your first-time donors to give again, it’s much more likely they’ll keep giving. That second donation is known as the golden donation. This is why it’s important to engage with your new donors.
Create a welcome plan that includes a series of messages for new donors. Recruit board members to make thank you phone calls. This is a proven strategy that results in donors giving again.
Let these donors know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short relationship.
But don’t stop there, you also want to acknowledge your longer-term donors and make them feel special.
Pay attention to your lapsed donors
A lapsed donor is someone who hasn’t donated for at least a year. Make a plan to reach out to some of these donors and invite them to give again. Also, ask why they haven’t given. Maybe they forgot. Maybe they can’t afford to give right now. Maybe they were never thanked.
If a donor can’t afford to give right now, stay engaged with them. Maybe they’ll give again in the future. Also, some donors may choose to cut back on their giving. Don’t let them choose between an organization that does a great job of thanking them and sending engaging updates and the one that just sends a bunch of generic appeals.
Donor engagement is so important. A study by Donor Voice shows that donors are more likely to give again when they feel appreciated and the organization lets them know the impact of their gifts.
Pay attention to growing your monthly giving program
I’m a big proponent of monthly giving. Monthly donors have a much higher retention rate. Getting more monthly donors is one way to raise your overall retention rate.
Reach out to your single gift donors who have given at least twice and ask them to join your family of monthly donors. You can also invite donors to give monthly in your welcome package.
Pay attention to your donor communication
Do you barrage donors with appeals and then go silent for a while?
Ideally, you want to reach out somewhere between once a week and once a month. And not just with appeals. You need to thank donors and share updates. Remember the ask, thank, report formula. This is crucial for good donor retention.
Try to reach out by mail at least a few times a year. It’s more personal and your donors are more likely to see your messages. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. A handwritten thank you card or a postcard infographic can be a quick, but effective, way to engage.
Putting together a communications calendar will help you with this.
You also want to focus on quality. Just because you send thank you letters and newsletters, doesn’t mean you’re actually engaging with your donors. Write a heartfelt, personal thank you and create a newsletter and other updates with content they’ll be interested in.
Pay attention to your donor data
Something else that will help you with donor retention is to invest in a good CRM/database. This will let you segment donors and personalize their communication. Then you can send targeted communication to new donors, long-time donors, lapsed donors, potential donors, etc. Invest in the best database you can afford. It should pay off.
You may think that paying attention to your donor retention sounds like a lot of work. Well, so is finding new donors.
Bloomerang has a lot of great information on donor retention and keep reading for more ways to pay attention to your donor retention.
Focus on Donor Retention This Year
Donor Retention Strategies: Get Donors to Give Again
Engage, request, repeat: The proven formula for retaining donors
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